Tucked away in the minimum wage bill that President Clinton will sign shortly is a block of provisions granting families tax credits of up to $5,000 per child for costs associated with adopting children and $6,000 for adopting "hard-to-place" children.

"We hope the bill will lead to at least 5,000 more U.S. children being adopted each year and another 1,000 or so from abroad," said William Pierce, president of the National Council for Adoption, who took a leading role in pushing for the provisions.

The 5,000 to 6,000 newly adopted children would be on top of the 51,000 U.S. children and 10,000 or so foreign children adopted annually by Americans, Pierce said. Pierce said 110,000 children in foster care in the United States are available for adoption.

In addition to the tax credits, which would cost $1.3 billion over the next five years, the bill bars the states or any agencies that receive federal funding for adoption -- except Indian tribes -- from denying or delaying placement of a child based on race. Pierce said Native American groups opposed being covered by this provision because of tribal rights.

Pierce said this provision would set aside policies long held in many areas that said, in effect, that children must be placed with adoptive families of the same race to preserve their cultural heritage. He said such a policy was adopted by some social work groups two decades ago in the belief that children would not flourish under transracial adoptions.

Pierce said that, in his view, the impact of the policy has been to lock many minority children into foster care instead of letting them be adopted by whites, despite the fact that several studies have found that black children do well when adopted by white families.

The tax credit provisions, effective Jan. 1, would apply to all but stepparent adoptions. The provisions are as follows:

Up to $5,000 of adoption expenses such as agency and attorneys fees paid to employees by businesses would be tax-free. "So if you adopted three siblings from Russia," Pierce said, "and your employer gave you $15,000 in assistance, it would be tax-free to you under the bill."

A $6,000 tax credit would be available for adoption of a "hard-to-place" U.S. child, one with physical or mental problems, for example.

A tax credit of up to $5,000 would be available for all other adoptions, from the United States or elsewhere.

All benefits would be means-tested: They would be available for families with incomes up to $75,000 and eliminated at $115,000.

Except for the provision on "hard-to-place children," the tax provisions would "sunset" after five years, at the end of 2001.

Pierce said the work of GOP leaders of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees and several Democrats led to approval of the adoption provisions, and added that endorsement of an earlier version last spring by President Clinton was an important factor in moving the concept forward. He said Robert J. Dole, then in the Senate, also played an important role at an early stage of action.

Pierce said a coalition of about two dozen groups backed the tax provisions, including the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, the Adoptive Parents Committee of New York, the Association of Jewish Child and Family Service Agencies and Resolve. Pierce said some other groups, though not formally part of the coalition, lent support at various stages, such as the National Right to Life Committee.